A couple of weeks ago, we just closed off two significant milestones in consulting, and we’re about to close one more this week week. Prior to my 1-on-1 session with our director, she sent me a list of questions to reflect on, and one of them was about the learnings I gained from the project. As I thought about it, it’s amusing that all the lessons that popped in my mind were mostly personal rather than technical. 

Yes, I could make a long list of lessons I’ve learned in human capital consulting, organizational design, government policies and programs, project management, staffing, people development, change management, etc, but these weren’t really those that stood out for me. As with any project or endeavor I’ve gone through in the past, it has always been an experience of self-discovery and re-discovery, which helps me calibrate my compass as I move along in my career, or life in general.

Allow me to share with you some of these insights and learnings.

Your boundaries are yours to protect

You probably heard this a dozen times already, that the pandemic has blurred the lines that somehow compartmentalize our lives. I find myself shuffling from one hat to another just in matter of minutes as I have attend meetings, attend to my child, or make a presentation. Technology played a big role in making us hyperconnected. We are literally always just a message away, any time of the day…. Yes, even on weekends. And for someone like me who values weekends and time with the family, this affected me a lot. At first, I went through a phase of frustration every single time I received a message or a meeting request on a weekend. But later on, I realised that it’s really up to me to protect my own boundaries. I realised that I have the power and the responsibility to respond the way I want to. And when I did that (as well as turn off notifications), I felt more peaceful. 

There really isn’t a perfect team

Projects aren’t always smooth sailing. Requirements change, conditions change (hello, Covid!) and sometimes things also do not go well with the people you work with. This isn’t really a new lesson for me, as I’ve experienced this even way back in my grade school days when group mates just won’t deliver their part. But as I closed out this chapter, I am reminded yet again about how different we all are, how we try our best to leverage on everyone’s strengths and how we cannot really choose the cards we are dealt.

There are things I love, things I like and things I don’t

Having developed a certain sense of self-awareness has helped me become more attuned to knowing and feeling what activities bring me joy, which ones feel neutral and which ones I would never want to do again. My recent engagements have allowed me to better fine tune my ikigai and focus on what it is that I’d like to do more of next time. Sometimes, we think we know ourselves well enough, but constant discovery and awareness will surprise us with what else we have yet to know. It’s like knowing that you do like ice cream, but after some experiences, realizing that you prefer vanilla ice cream with nuts, and later on fine-tuning it to a certain brand of vanilla ice cream and a specific amount of nuts. Pretty much also like discovering your own niche, and your own space to carry out your purpose in the world.

Reassess your expectations and beliefs

At some point, I realised that it’s really my expectations and beliefs of my own self (coupled with other factors) that’s adding to my stress. I’ve been stretching myself unnecessarily in the different aspects that has resulted to loss of joy in some areas. For example, one of our primary reasons for homeschooling is for us to have a flexible schedule that allows us parents to work, and our child to enjoy his play time and other activities. However, somewhere along the way, I found myself feeling the pressure of completing certain topics by a certain schedule, even if I already knew that it’s going to be a big stretch for me given my work schedule that week. I had to go back to our WHY and allow myself to be guided by it. When I did that, I was able to ease the pressure and then found joy again.

You have a choice to say no

Saying no is something that I find quite challenging in certain situations. Sometimes, I find myself in a state of analysis paralysis, where I think (and overthink) about the situation and the options I have. But when we focus to much on the “what” (i.e. the situation or the actions) is we miss out on the “who” (i.e. how is this affecting us? What does this mean to us?) And when you’re able to take those two together, it might help you in saying a more wholehearted yes or no. 

I’ll leave you with my top five for now. I encourage you also to do a self-debrief whenever you close off a chapter or a milestone, or even mid-way. Allow yourself to pause and get to know who YOU have become and are becoming.